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Raising the roof for prison outreach

Choir members at Trinity, Darwin and Christ’s Colleges have organised a concert in Trinity’s Chapel on Friday 23 February, 8pm, to raise money for Sing Inside, a Cambridge student initiative that brings music into prisons.

Anyone is welcome to attend the free concert, which will feature old favourites, pop music and spirituals, as well as short talks about Sing Inside by students and prison staff. There will be a retiring collection after the concert. No booking is required, just turn up.

Students including Christ’s choir member Rachael Chapman and Trinity’s Frankie Postles run choral workshops in nearby prisons, which are organised with the support of the rehabilitation team or the chaplaincy at each institution. Currently, Sing Inside works with prisons including Highpoint, Whitemoor, Bedford. Thameside, Wayland, and George Mackenzie House. Four members of Trinity’s Choir are committee members of Sing Inside.

Frankie said:

The society aims to impact the lives of offenders through the power of music, helping them to develop strong social skills, a sense of community and empowerment through music. We believe that music can break down common stereotypes, social barriers, and encourage creativity, confidence, and a greater sense of self-worth.

 At each workshop, after meeting and greeting, the students and prisoners get to work. Frankie explains:

We start with a quite an active warm up, physical and vocal. We then move on to learning some of the songs together, through call and response, adding some harmonies as we go. Sometimes prisoners add their own verses or raps. After lunch there is a recap session followed by an informal performance to fellow prison members and staff.

Rachael said a lot could be achieved in a day’s workshop. ‘As well as producing a concert of newly-learnt music, friendships are formed, students and inmates come out of their shells and try something new – we become one big group making music together,’ she said.

Feedback has been good, say the students, who are aware of the sensitivities of the initiative. In response to the question ‘What have you enjoyed most about the workshop?’ prisoners responded:

It couldn’t possibly have been any better, I was treated by everyone as a human being. 

Not once did I feel like a prisoner, I had a little private cry at lunchtime. 

If we did a workshop like this on a regular basis in prison, it would be fantastic – better than any course we could do.

The feeling of being. It made me feel good about life.

Seeing young people who care about us.

The atmosphere relaxed us and it was so good to see people smiling.

Friday’s concert is the main fundraising event for Sing Inside and all money raised will go directly to funding prison visits – the main cost being the hire of a coach to transport student volunteers.

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